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"Needed: An Antiwhite Movement,"

by Noel Ignatiev January/February 2000 issue of Poverty & Race

Leonard Steinhorn and Barbara Diggs-Brown are right to conclude that integration of black and white must forever remain an illusion. Integration, in the sense they use the term, is incompatible with the existence of white and black as social categories. The society they envision requires not integration of white and black but dis-integration of the white race. My purpose in engaging in this word play is to move the discussion away from the ground on which whites are most comfortable — individual attitudes — and relocate it in social reality: the measurable whiteness gap that exists in every aspect of life.

Any attempt to treat whites as a legitimate group with valid interests runs counter to the goal of transcending race. This is true whether the effort is made on traditional “racial” or on currently fashionable cultural grounds. The white race is neither a biological nor an ethnic group but a hereditary aristocracy; without the privileges attached to white skin, it would not exist.

But if whites cannot be absorbed into the common race of humankind, perhaps former whites can. There are more than two hundred million people in this country “passing,” claiming to be white in order to improve their chances. Why should they renounce something that gives them an edge in the rat race? The answer is, it costs more than it is worth. It is a question of class: like every modern society, the U.S. is divided into masters and slaves. The problem here is that many of the slaves identify with the masters because they consider themselves white. And that habit prevents them from acting consistently to build a new world. While there is a great deal of rebellion in the U.S., there is very little real class politics, and what there is appears largely in a black face and is unrecognized as such by whites: e.g. the Rodney King riots.

Class politics are not bi- or multi-racial; they are non-racial. In America, non-racialism demands an assault on whiteness. Can the majority of oppressed whites be won to non-racial politics? In the ordinary course of events, probably not. Too many of their daily survival strategies depend on whiteness for them to imagine a world without it.

But abolishing the white race does not depend on winning over a majority of whites. What is needed is a band of people, including some nominally classified as white, who are determined to challenge, disrupt and eventually break up the institutions that reproduce whiteness: the school system (including teachers’ unions), the labor market, the criminal justice system (including the PBA), the welfare and health care systems, etc. The aim is not to win over individuals to secede from the white club (although that is great when it happens) but to make it impossible for anyone to be white. There are already enough “antiracists” to do the job. The antislavery movement gave rise to movements for women’s rights and against the Mexican War. The Civil Rights movement stimulated new movements of women and youth, and a movement against the Vietnam War. Nothing offers so great a possibility of transforming the political climate of this country as an antiwhite movement.

Noel Ignatiev is an editor of Race Traitor, author of How the Irish Became White, and a member of the New Abolitionist Society ( He teaches in the Department of Critical Studies at the Massachusetts College of Art.

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